What Are the Different Causes of Headaches in Children?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2018
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Some of the different causes of headaches in children are negative emotional feelings, illness, and food ingredients. Children who are stressed, anxious, or depressed might complain about having a headache due to strong emotional feelings. Common illnesses like a cold or ear infection also have headaches as a symptom, so sometimes children complaining of a headache may need to see a doctor. In addition, certain common ingredients in food are known to cause headaches in people who are sensitive to them; these ingredients can be found in almost anything, including soda beverages, sauces, and candy. If other people in the family also suffer from regular headaches, the headaches might be a health problem that runs in the family.

Like adults, children can become stressed, anxious or depressed. These feelings can give them headaches or at least make them think they have a headache. Depression in particular is sometimes described as a headache by children. This is because young children often have difficult explaining or recognizing negative feelings. Finding the root cause of a child’s emotional distress can be hard, especially if he or she cannot yet describe loneliness, betrayal, or general sadness.


Headaches in children are commonly caused by illness. For example, the common cold, influenza, and ear infections can cause a child to experience a subtle to mild headache. In the case of the common cold or flu, the symptoms are usually obvious. Congestion, cough, and fever are some things to look out for when a child complains of having a headache. Ear infections are a bit more complicated, but usually present with symptoms such as draining of the ear, fever, and trouble hearing or sleeping.

Sometimes the ingredients in certain foods and beverages can cause headaches in children. For example, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a food additive that is well known to cause headaches in children and adults alike. Excessive amounts of caffeine in soda beverages, chocolate, or other edibles might also give a child a headache. It is important for adults to pay close attention to what their children eat in order to recognize patterns and discover sensitivities and allergies.

Migraines are a type of headache that is sometimes genetic. This means headaches in children can be caused by their parents having similar headaches. If the migraine is severe, a doctor might prescribe a medication to deal with the pain. In many cases, over-the-counter (OTC) medications are also effective at curing headaches in children.



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